Climate Action Planning and Implementation
The earth’s abundant, yet finite, natural resources are supporting a rapidly growing population and increasingly complex society; yet there is an imbalance in the use of these resources that is inequitable within and between nations, and unsustainable for future generations. The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) is a unique hybrid of a diverse student body and high level of faculty research and service, in the third largest city in the United States. This makes UIC uniquely positioned to advance sustainability.
UIC has a formal climate action plan with specific greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets, and provide a variety of mitigation strategies. The key fundamental difference between the 2009 Climate Action Plan (CAP) and this Climate Action Implementation Plan (CAIP) is the transition from broader mitigation strategies to a refined model of Climate and Resource Planning. This results in a concrete set of solutions with specified time frames and delegated responsibilities.
THE SEVEN CAIP STRATEGIES
Strategy 1.0 – Energy Efficiency and Conservation, Strategy 2.0 – Clean and Renewable Resources, and Strategy 3.0 – Reduced Transportation-Related Emissions all derive from the first UIC Climate Commitment—Carbon Neutral Campus. All solutions embedded within these three strategies of the CAIP work to reduce UIC’s GHG emissions in moving towards carbon neutrality by 2050.
Strategy 4.0 – Natural Resources and Ecosystem Services combine the third and fourth UIC Climate Commitments—Net-Zero Water Campus and Biodiverse Campus (respectively) to help UIC realize the goal of consuming no more water than what naturally falls on its surfaces, as well as building upon our biodiversity portfolio.
Strategy 5.0 – Sustainable Materials and Reduced Waste Streams provides achievable solutions to the second UIC Climate Commitment—Zero Waste Campus, as a means to help UIC reach it’s 90% diversion rate goal of landfill-bound material through recycling and other waste-reducing techniques.
Strategy 6.0 – Teaching and Learning takes the recommendations from the UIC Climate Commitments for Teaching and Learning as well as “To Green and Beyond: Excellence Through Sustainability at UIC” that will help UIC incorporate sustainability concepts, themes, and foundational knowledge into the academic curriculum. This strategy also outlines solutions to facilitate research that furthers sustainability goals.
Strategy 7.0 – Climate Resilience incorporates actions that help UIC and the greater Chicago region to be better prepared for the likely impacts that will be experienced due to climate change. This strategy outlines UIC’s ability and capacity to absorb external disturbances, maintain the core mission and the functions of UIC, and recover to previous or improved conditions by preparing, preventing, mitigating, responding and managing these external disturbances.
THE STRATEGIC SOLUTIONS
Sustainability modeled greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions projections based on current usage. By obtaining this data, Sustainability is better able to predict where UIC can best spend its time and resources to reducing these emissions. OS, along with a consulting service, Fovea LLC, created many portfolio solutions to reduce GHG emissions. Many of these portfolio solutions also are cost-effective and will save the university money. Additional information, including the historical background, quantifiable solution modules, key model assumptions of the strategic portfolio solutions, and references can be found in the CAIP appendix. If all of the portfolio solutions that are outlined in this CAIP are put into action, UIC can achieve carbon neutrality with using only a small percentage of offsets by 2050.
The Sustainability also developed additional strategic solutions to help UIC realize the goals of the UIC Climate Commitments that do not have a direct impact on GHG emissions. These goals cannot be modeled the same way as GHG-reducing solutions, but careful research and case study testimonials have help shape these solutions. Implementing these solutions, along with the portfolio solutions mentioned above, will make UIC a truly sustainable university in which to work, study, and conduct research.
Piloting, modeling, and scaling solutions represent huge research and educational opportunities for our students as they go forward into an increasingly complicated world. The implementation of this plan to advance sustainability efforts should be infused with a level of urgency and sense of commitment that is commensurate with the global threat posed by climate change, resource depletion, and the failure of our educational system to prepare members of our society to comprehend and confront these challenges.
The following is a brief outline of the seven major strategies and their respective set of solutions to implement these goals within the next fifteen years. Adaptation of these recommendations will support the campus Strategic Priority of becoming an Entrepreneurial University through innovation, diversified funding, and increased efficiency.